Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables — but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.
Beginning with a high risk prison break-out of a previous Expendable played by Wesley Snipes, the film starts with promise. It’s not the most exciting action scene ever produced, but it’s a passable introduction to a new character. Snipes revels in being back on screen, even cheekily quipping to his real life incarceration. While many feel that The Expendables franchise could potentially have been more than it has been so far due to it’s stellar cast, it’s pleasing to see the gang back together.
But The Expendables 3 is missing everything that made its predecessors enjoyable. The nostalgia of seeing a dream line up of action heroes is long gone, and while there are one liners, they’re embarrassingly forced and nonsensical or wildly misjudged – a joke about cancer is wholly unnecessary and justifiably falls flat. The go-to defence of this type of film is always something along the lines of it’s ‘just a bit of fun’. The Expendables 3 is anything but. For an action movie, there’s an unforgivable amount of combat involved – there’s only two set pieces in its bloated 2 hour runtime, and they bookend the film. The middle is a dull trawl around the country that follows Stallone as he attempts to find new recruits. Kelsey Grammer is a plus point of these scenes though, and without him they would have been insufferable.
The newcomers are instantly forgettable, bringing nothing interesting to the mix. Made up of relative unknowns, the new guys are hoped to be the future of these films, presumably led by the charisma free Kellan Lutz (Twilight, The Legend of Hercules). Ronda Rousey has the martial arts credentials to have taken on Bruce Lee in his prime, but Hughes’ direction does not do her justice; her brief introductory fight scene makes her look amateurish. Victor Ortiz, a boxer who’s inclusion is a mystery, is about as memorable as the henchmen who fall in their path, while Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises) plays Thorn, a by-the-numbers hacker, complete with the obligatory cocktail stick in his mouth while working is computer magic.
As for the old gang, they’ve lost any characteristics that made them distinguishable. Stallone chews his words with his mouth full, making most of his lines undecipherable. The same goes for series newcomer Harrison Ford, who replaces Bruce Willis; he growls his way through his scenes, but is more inclusive and important to the scenes than Willis was. Lundgren is barely seen, and Terry Crews (an absolute joy to watch usually) cruelly has about 10 minutes of exposure. Statham is as inter-changeable as ever, being the equivalent of the Michael Cera of action movies – same guy, different film. The biggest crime is the under use of Jet Li, the martial arts master. He’s not seen for a good 90 minutes of the runtime, and when he does turn up, he’s wasted by being planted in a helicopter and a machine gun. That’s just what the battles consist of though; tedious gunfire from opposing sides with no tension or threat exhibited whatsoever. Considering their name is Expendables, they sure don’t die easily.
And it’s not for the lack of Gibson’s trying. He plays Stonebanks, and Ex..pendable turned villainous. He shows glimmers of his usual crazy self, but due to the constraints set by its 12A age rating and uninspired script, he never reaches his full potential. Speaking of the 12A though, the violence isn’t extreme, but the language is as colourful as a 15 with a few f-bombs dropped and ‘esses’ frequently littering sentences.
The Expendables 3 can’t even be considered as a throw-away piece of entertainment. It has very, very few reasons to be picked up in the first place, and strays far from the playful, over the top path set by the first two. There’s not too much of a plot to talk about either; this is a simply a passing of the torch instalment with a half baked attempt at a story thrown in, unoriginally involving nuclear weapons. Its ending makes it clear that these films could go on for quite some time with a fresher faced cast, but considering the reason why these films were made in the first place (to give heroes of yesteryear one last hurrah), the real question is: who cares about the new guys?